The 2011 Cricket World Cup has been very exciting in patches. Though it took time for the world to deliver the attention it needed, it has been worth the wait! The delay has been caused only because of the knock-offs against the “Associates” or second rung teams – which went on for close to a month from Feb 19th – March 20th. Too long a time. However, the Group B team has nevertheless brought the “World” back to the “Cup” as some of the sports analysts rightly mentioned in his article.
Group B sets the pace
The Group B team comprised of India, England, South Africa, West Indies, Netherlands, Ireland and Bangladesh. Though the last three countries are relatively minnows, they showed brilliance in patches. India stamped its authority against these countries to drive home an advantageous 6 points out of 3 games (each win gives you 2 points). Against the tougher opponents , we managed to tie a match with England, lost a winning match to South Africa and won a match against West Indies. So in effect this provides another 3 points (Tie / No Results – each give 1 point). No wonder – India made it to the Quarter Final and maybe this layout of games for India was pre-conspired by the decision makers – ICC, Sponsorers and the BCCI – the Cricketing sport body of India which is pumping all the money into the sport. They have to. A cricket crazy nation can very well treat its guests (like Aussies, SA, NZ etc) well per the old Indian saying "Athithi devo bhava", but if India are not in the later stages of the tournament the crowds and advertisers wont participate in the match and cut of the flow of funds thereby silently saying guests when would you leave? which in hindi means "Athithi tum kab jaaoge?"!
England - the rising and falling star of Group B
England have also kept the match interesting with that tie against India, losses against Ireland and Bangladesh and the matches they never looked to win – the one against West Indies and South Africa, which they finally won. They were on a cliff hanger till the last week and finally entered the Quarter Final after turning around a match against West Indies. If there is any side who can win it and have the hunger – it should be England. However , since their team members are deserting the main team right at the start of Quarter Finals due to injury, depression, hospitalization maybe lady luck is not on their side. South Africa have got the perfect balance in the side, with Pace, Spin, Fielding and some good batsmen in the team. Though their openers are not amongst runs, still they bat deep down the order and with the likes of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Ab de Villiers holding fort amongst the top order – they are an enviable side to beat.
Unexciting Group A
Amongst Group A, now that Aussies are out of the scene - the scarrier opponents look more to be New Zealand, Sri Lank and Pakistan. The Friday and Saturday of this week will determine, who amongst these will make it to the Semi Final, when they play England and South Africa. Hope this world cup "is NOT time for Africa"! The matches in Group A though have been torturously boring and not as topsy turvey and unpredictable like that of Group B (thanks England, India, Bangladesh, Ireland for that!).
India has been devastatingly over rated at the beginning of the tournament to lift the cup. Quite rightly Indian team proved otherwise with the way they have unconvincingly won against the minnows – Bangladesh, Ireland and Netherlands. This helped to get the pressure of the Indian team as the knives were then more on their poor fielding, lack of wicket taking bowling and inability to use the Power Play to the best of their abilities. A match against England gone down to the wire and being tied and a match against South Africa, which they lost closely however gave them the much needed training ground for relaxing their nerves and fighting till the end. India have won matches where irrespective of the toss, they have set targets or chased targets under pressure scenarios. This coming from a team who has not exactly been known for its bowling or ability to chase under pressure (till a few years back) is a revelation formed only over the last decade post the match fixing scandal. The one thing that invisibly guides all our match wins and the self belief that we are better than others is the backing, brave acts and mental toughness injected into the team by the likes of Sourav Ganguly. You just need to see the way he took off his T-shirt and swung it around in the players arena at “Lords” , England - the Mecca of Cricket when India won the 2002 Natwest Trophy final chasing a target.Yuvraj Singh was a part of that upset in the crease along with the now forgotten Mohammad Kaif. Along with the swinging off the T-shirt he was generous in a string of expletives especially against the loosing team – England, giving it back to them.
India's thumping win against Australia setting the pace for "Mother of all Games" - India vs Pak in a Semi Final!
The ingredients of this experience of chasing successfully in One Day Internationals + captains aggression + India’s wide experience and honest evaluation of its strengths and ability to weaken its weaknesses are instrumental in India’s win against Australia today, to enter the Semi Finals of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. Today’s match by any reach was the display of a team which collectively fought the Aussies. The fact that India managed to use all its players in the initial Qualifying stages in Group B held us in good stead. We got the combination of team right today from a bowlers perspective. If the Spin was the guile of R Ashwin, quick paced lollies of Yuvraj or the containers of Bhajji, the pace was done by the brilliance of Zaheer Khan who understands his limitations and exploits his strengths with loose Munaf Patel bearing the brunt of the Aussies frustrations. I strongly request Munaf Patel, Sreesanth S and Ashish Nehra to stop worshipping Ajit Agarkar for bowling skills! No wonder, we spew more than 6-7 runs per over from these guys! Looks like they cant sleep with a clear conscience if they don't leak runs at that rate! From a batsmens perspective, great to see the much hyped Indian batting order perform to its potential. Barring the crazy shot from Virat and Gambhir’s suicidal run out – there were no hiccups. Raina proved his selection over Yusuf and may well continue to cling onto his place for matches to come, which would hold India in good stead. As Indian cricket looks to loose Sachin, Rahul, Laxman in the next 1 year due to retirement – Gambhir, Kohli, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Pathan look well in place to shoulder the responsibility in various roles. Finally we avenged the 2003 World Cup Final defeat against Australia in style. In the end, though Aussies tried their last trick in the hat – sleding and abusing to unsettle Indians, we aced. As they say – you reap the results of your own efforts – maybe Aussies gave too much of lip service to our men on ground and we chose to deliver with the performance than abusing sledges! Either ways, the batting has been magnificient barring Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has been a shrewd captain with the right words in press conferences which never brings his own weakness – batting form under focus.
The Indian magic mantra to win the ICC World Cup 2011:
A) Win the Semi Final against Pakistan (The Mother of all games) @ Mohali, India
B) Win the Final @ Wankhede, Mumbai, India
C) Dhoni, Bhajji and Munaf to deliver and others to keep performing at their potentials.
D) Sehwag and Sachin to fire incessantly for A and B with Sachin not scoring a 100 (so that India wins! Sorry Sachin, just feel your centuries jinx our winning chances. Also, when you dont score and India wins, its good experience for the next generation of players to continue winning in Indian cricket re. Am sure you understand!)
Fingers crossed, hope we lift it this time! Chak de India!